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5 observations: Flyers’ defense collapses as Nashville rallies for 5-4 win

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Travis Sanheim, Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers' Travis Sanheim continued his strong play Sunday against the host Predators. He leads Philly D-men with six goals.

Nashville is in a battle to secure a Western Conference playoff berth, but the Predators will be hard-pressed to earn a spot if goalie Juuse Saros plays like he did Sunday.

The Philadelphia Flyers scored on three of their first five shots and, with better defense in front of goalie Martin Jones, would have beaten the Predators for the second time in 10 nights.

Ah, but the Flyers faded and coughed up a 3-1 lead and fell to the host Predators, 5-4.

Nashville had a 41-11 domination in shots attempts through the first 27 minutes, but faced a 3-1 deficit. No matter. The Predators rallied and handed the Flyers their 15th loss in their last 16 road games.

“If you score four goals, you should win the hockey game,” interim coach Mike Yeo said. “I know that we’re capable of defending better.”

“We could be a little cleaner in the D zone,” center Joel Farabee said. “… At the end of the day, defense is what lost us this game tonight.”

Here are five observations:

1.  Flyers goalie Martin Jones had no chance on the game-winner.

An uncovered Tanner Jeannot redirected Roman Jussi’s shot past the hard-luck Jones with 79 seconds lefty to snap a 4-4 tie. That gave Jeannot a Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight). Jussi finished with two assists, giving the defenseman a staggering 81 points.

Jones finished with 30 saves.

“He was great; he battles and he gave us a chance,” winger Max Willman said. “Wish we could have done a little bit more for him in our own zone.”

2. The Flyers’ defense gave Nashville an inordinate amount of room in front of the net in the second period.

They allowed four goals in the second stanza and lost leads of 2-0 and 3-1. The Flyers briefly fell behind at 4-3 before James van Riermsdyk tied it at 4-all with 47 seconds left in the second. JVR beat a shaky Saros, who allowed four goals on 14 shots through the first 40 minutes.

Which brings us to ….

3. James van Riemsdyk has rediscovered his game.

His second-period goal was his third in the last four games — and fifth in his last 10. If he didn’t have one year left on his big contract ($7 million cap hit, second on the team), the Flyers probably would have been able to trade him before the deadline.

Van Riemsdyk (two points), who turns 33 on May 4, has struggled most of the season, but now has 17 goals, and he has points in seven of his last eight games. Will the Flyers buy him before next season?

Stay tuned.

4. Joel Farabee looks like he enjoys his new position, center.

A converted left winger, Farabee (15 goals) has a career-best five-game point streak. He has played center in four of those games.

Farabee, 22, gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead on a backhander from the slot with 2:33 left  in a strange first period.

It was a strange period because the Predators controlled play — they had a 14-4 shots domination — but left the ice at the first intermission facing a 2-0 deficit.

5. Travis Sanheim has become the Flyers’ best defenseman.

Great forechecking by Morgan Frost and his slick pass set up Sanheim’s  goal from the left circle to put the Flyers ahead, 1-0, after just 2:15.

“I saw their D was going to turn it over and I saw a chance to jump up, and he made a great play to me late and I found a way to put it in,” Sanheim said.

Barring an unforeseen development in the season’s final month, Sanheim should win the Barry Ashbee Trophy as the Philadelphia Flyers’ best defenseman this season. He leads Flyers defensemen in goals (6), points (25), and plus-minus rating (plus-7).

Breakaways

Nashville had a 74-42 advantage in shot attempts. … Willman scored on a breakaway, giving him goals in back-to-back games. … Ivan Provorov and Kevin Hayes were each minus-3. … Yakov Trenin had his 16th and 17th goals of the season for Nashville. … Patrick Brown beat the Predators Luke Kunin in a quick bout late in the first period. … Early in the third period, Hayden Hodgson gave a strong account in his long and entertaining bout, but was defeated by Jeannot. Hodgson went to the locker room for a cut on his face and later returned and had a solid finish.  It was Nashville’s league-leading 45th fight and the Flyers’ 20th. … After the first stanza, Nashville had been outscored, 14-2, over its last seven periods. … Rasmus Ristolainen had five hits and blocked four shots. … Winger Noah Cates signed a two-year, entry-level deal ($925,000 annual cap hit) Sunday and will join the team Tuesday in Minnesota, where the Flyers will end their five-game road trip. The Flyers are 1-3 on the trip. … Former Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who had two assists in each of his first two games with Florida, was blanked in the Panthers’ 5-2 loss Sunday in Toronto.

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BigLeftHandie

I’d trade for Tanner Jeannot … the kid was undrafted.

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